For Boca man Michael Conner, 9/11 marks loss, renewal

NEW YORK, N.Y. - The white 9/11 ribbons flutter outside St. Paul's Chapel. It stands just across the street from Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan. And outside the chapel the memories flood back for Boca Raton's Michael Conner.

On September 11, 2001 Conner rushed toward the World Trade Center from his job in midtown Manhattan. He heard the North Tower had been hit by a plane. His wife Margaret worked as a receptionist there on the 103rd Floor for Cantor Fitzgerald.

An overwhelming noise suddenly brought Conner up short. He recalled, "I heard this rumble. I did not realize the South Tower had been hit (too). It just pancaked and that cloud of smoke came across. I was engulfed in the cloud of smoke in my eyes. I couldn't breathe, my nose was clogged."

Conner staggered to get help and then went to a nearby hospital, hoping Margaret might be there. But the North Tower had collapsed by then and waiting doctors and nurses had no one to help.

"They are all standing with their mouths wide open," Conner recalled, "No one was coming. There were no injured coming to the hospital."

Conner was suddenly left to endure the searing loss and pain and anger.

He said, "These individuals -- they are animals -- came and literally killed almost three thousand people and for no reason at all."

Conner carried on and eventually met and married a new love who lost her previous husband to a heart attack. Her name is Joyce.

On Sunday they seeked out Margaret's name together at the new National 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero. It is inscribed--with so many others--on the walls surrounding the fountained spots where the Twin Towers once stood.

"This is renewal," Conner said. "Time does heal. There is a scar. It will never go away. I dealt with Margaret's death."

And today Michael and Joyce Conner added their own white ribbon on the fence outside St. Paul's with the words Joyce wrote on it. "Dearest Margaret, I am taking good care of Michael. Rest in peace. Love, Joyce."

And with that, a couple bonded by loss, love and courage quietly departed hand in hand, moving on together 10 years after 9/11.